How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico

One of the great things about Mexico - aside from its food, culture, history and places of natural beauty - is the free daycare system.

How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico

You could argue that it is the only great thing about Mexico's welfare system.  I mean, the healthcare system can be very good, wonderful sometimes, but on other occasions it has been known to be appalling.

Does everyone have their own personal horror story about a bad experience in an IMSS hospital?  I know I do (the time I got appendicitis is still a post waiting to be written - I will write it one day!)

But I think that the free daycare service that is available nowadays (I can't speak for the past) is pretty amazing.
Especially coming from a country (the UK) where many mums have no other option but to stay at home with their young children because the cost of daycare is so unaffordable you would need to be earning a pretty high salary for it to be worthwhile.

In Mexico most mothers can not afford the luxury of being stay-at-home mums.  The vast majority need to earn a living to help support their families (or are the only income provider).  Most salaries are pretty low and make paying for private daycare impossible.  Of course many have the support of extended family and a lot of children are cared for by their grandparents, but not everyone has that support and the government guarderías are a lifesaver.

Other posts about Life In Mexico you might be interested in:

Am I eligible?

If you - a working mother - have a job that gives you all the benefits you are entitled to by law (so your employer is paying social security contributions as they should be) then you will also be entitled to free daycare.  Also this applies if you are a widower or divorced father, or another person who has legal custody of the child.

What are daycare centers like?

Official government guarderías have very strict health and safety regulations and carry out regular fire and earthquake drills. They also have stringent standards of hygiene and a good ratio of carers to children.  In Alexander's first class of 6 to 12 month old babies there were four or five carers for approximately 17 babies.

They have a fixed mealtime schedule and provide all food and milk (unless you provide breastmilk or your baby has special dietary requirements and you need to provide a different kind of milk).  All food is prepared using completely natural ingredients, with no processed foods or added sugar.

How old does my baby have to be?

The minimum age is 43 days old (when maternity leave usually ends) and they can stay in daycare until their fourth birthday.

What are the rules about attendance and absences?

It's pretty flexible, which is just as well since babies tend to get sick rather frequently especially when they first start.  They have the right to be absent 7 days in a row and on the 8th day if they don't show up or bring a doctor's note, they will lose their place. There isn't a maximum number of absences within a set time, however. The next time they miss a day, the count starts again from zero.

Is there a set entrance time and pick up time?

Each guarderia has it's own opening and closing times (where we take Alexander opens at 7.30 am and closes 4.30pm, there are others that stay open later into the afternoon).

However, you can take your child and pick them up at any time during the day, except during mealtimes.  For example, they serve breakfast at 9am, so you have to arrive by 8.45am if you want your child to have breakfast there. After that time they won't be accepted until after 9.30, when breakfast is over and obviously they must already have eaten.  The same applies at lunchtime.  But within these constraints your child could be there all day or just for an hour or two.

Do babies have to be vaccinated?

Yes, definitely!  They are very strict and check regularly to make sure each child is up to date with their vaccinations.  They let you know when your baby is due another one.  One time they actually left me a message at my work to tell me that Alexander was overdue for a particular vaccine and that he would not be admitted to daycare until he was fully up-to-date.

What documents will I need?

You will need:

Child's documents:

1. birth certificate (original and copy)

2. Your child's CURP.*

3. Your child's  "cartilla de vacunacion" (official vaccination record - in Mexico it's a little booklet you should be given when you register for the Seguro Social health service)

4. Medical examination form (will be sent to you by email when your child is given a place)

Mother's documents:

1. Your CURP.*

2. Proof of employment - A special letter from your employer with all the company details.  They should know the form it has to take and the information it needs to include.

3. Your official identification with photo (voting credential if you are Mexican or migratory document if not - your work or resident visa, or your passport).

4. Daycare enrollment form (will also be sent to you via email to print out)

5. Document to say that you attended the talk at the daycare centre. (This will be provided by them)

For any additional people you authorize to drop off and collect your child:

1.  Official photo ID (voting credential or passport)

2.  CURP *

                           *  *  *
* What is the CURP? It stands for Clave Unica de Registro de Población.  It is a special code of numbers and letters that everyone has - foreign or Mexican - and is also a document. You can easily find it on the internet and print it out, just go to and fill in all your details. It will ask your names, last names, day, month and year of birth, sex and the state where you were born. If you were not born in Mexico just scroll to the bottom of the list of states and click on "nacido en el extranjero".
                             *  *  *

How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico - Image Shows Closeup Of Child's Hand Playing With Toy

How to apply

First step, if you haven't done this already, you need to register yourself and your baby with the Seguro social.  This is quite straightforward.

To register your baby you need your cartilla de vacunacion (vaccination records), CURP and your official ID (in my case, my resident's visa), the baby's birth certificate and CURP and, if possible, a photo of the baby, "infantil" size, which is smaller than a passport photo.  Take these documents to your local Seguro Social clinic and ask to register your child.

You need to ask your employer for the proof of employment letter.

Then you can apply online at
Fill in all the information on the online form.

Choose the location most convenient for you. It will tell you if there is a place available or not - the most likely is that you will have to be put on a waiting list.

I called the guardería I'd applied to after making the application to ask them when we had to take them our documents and approximately how long the waiting list was. They told me that I had to wait until Alexander was given a place and then call them to make an appointment for the induction talk and to take the documents.

They were also able to check on their system and tell me that Alexander was number six on the waiting list for his age group and that it would be around a month to a month and a half until he got a place.

For the first three weeks I called them every week and they would tell me where Alexander was on the list (gradually going up), then after that I didn't bother any more and trusted that they would let me know when a place was free.

It was towards the end of September, just over a month and a half later, when I received an email from the IMSS Guarderías Service to tell me that there was a place for Alexander.  

 How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico -Image Shows Baby Looking Towards The Camera

What happens when my baby has been offered a place?

From when you receive the email you have about ten days to complete the next parts of the process and take your baby to his first day in the guardería.  If not, you risk losing your place and will have to start again.

First you need to call the guardería so they can tell you when you need to go to the induction talk. In my case, they seemed to have them every Wednesday from 10am to 12pm.  You can't choose the day or time.  It would be a good idea to take all your documents that day, too.

Along with the email notifying you that there is a place available you will receive the medical form, the application form and a guide to the daycare services.  You need to print out all three documents, including the entire guide which is several pages long.

You need to take the medical form, along with your baby, to your social security clinic so a doctor there can fill in the form. You don't need to make an appointment; just go as soon as you can and wait till a doctor can see you.  The doctor will ask you lots of routine questions about your child's medical history and will fill out the form (you shouldn't fill it out yourself), then they sign it, and maybe stamp it, but it is also important that you get the form stamped by the director of the clinic.

The application form should already be filled in with most of your information when you print it out, you just have to complete a few more details and then sign it.

You should read the guide and sign it at the end, but you have to hand in the whole guide with your documents, not just the last page with the signature which is what I thought at first.

To go to the induction talk, I had to get permission from work to leave early, so I thought I would send Eduardo on ahead so I wouldn't have to leave quite so early.  It turned out that you can't do that and the talk is apparently only for the mums. They wouldn't let Eduardo in to the talk, he had to stay at reception giving in all the documents and when I arrived I was ushered in to an office where two other mums were in the middle of the nutrition talk. The person giving the talk had to give me a quick recap of the information I had missed.

There was a lot of useful information, including what you need to pack in the changing bag each day (exactly how many changes of clothes, how many bibs, how many nappies/diapers, the packet of wipes, zinc oxide cream, etc.), the rules about how many absences, what you need to do in the case that your child needs to take medicine, how important open communication is between parents and daycare staff so that each side is fully informed about what is happening with the child.

The nutrition talk was interesting; they have different feeding regimes according to the baby's age.

Up to six months old they are fed only milk - provided by the daycare centre, unless your baby requires a certain kind of milk for medical reasons, or you can also provide breast milk. From six to nine months, the babies are also fed purees, and always in a reclining chair.

From ten months they start eating very finely chopped food in their meals, sitting in a high chair, and from a year old they are eating food in slightly bigger pieces.  At eighteen months they no longer use the high chair, instead they sit at little chairs and tables to eat.

Also, as I mentioned above, all the meals are prepared using natural ingredients, no processed foods and no added sugar.

How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico - Image Shows Carrots

From eighteen months, they begin potty training, so be prepared for that! It seems so young, but I guess it must work for them.

At the end of the talk we were given a tour of the centre and Eduardo was allowed to join us this time.  Not knowing really what to expect, he was very impressed by the level of cleanliness, the security and how well organised everything was.

We also had to have our photos taken for the ID cards (all of us; Alexander and each person authorized to pick him up) and our fingerprints registered. Whenever you go to drop off or pick up your child, you need to show your ID card to be allowed in to reception and then they take your fingerprint at the front desk.

Starting at daycare: is there an adaptation period?

The first three days serve as the adaptation period; the first day your child stays for 4 hours, the second day 5 hours and the third day for 6 hours. If your baby is under twelve months old then you or another carer has to stay with him or her during this time.

Since Alexander started at daycare the day he turned nine months old, he had to be accompanied.

The first day it has to be the mother who accompanies her baby, but the next two days it can be any of the authorized carers (already registered with the daycare center with their ID and CURP).

There they explain that it is part of your responsibility as parent or carer to get to know the people who will be looking after your baby and the system and the way they work.  It seems reasonable to me, although it can be complicated getting the time off work (despite the fact you are using the daycare service so you don't have to take time off work!).

What we did was divide this duty between me and my husband - he was somewhat horrified at the idea of having to spend so many hours in the guarderia, but he went on the second day for five hours.

I had to go the first day, but organised it so that I could go into work in the morning then leave halfway through the day (I work 7 - 3) and took Alexander into daycare from 11 to 3, covering the four hours. I also went on the third day, but took the day off work and went with Alexander at around 8.30, just before breakfast time and we stayed until 2.30, after lunch, to cover the six hours.

During this time you are allowed to go out for half an hour to get something to eat and your baby stays in daycare by himself.

I am grateful for having had this adaptation period because it really let me see inside a typical day at daycare and how the system works, what the carers, the routine, and the activities are like.

How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico - Image Shows Baby Playing With Xylophone

Our experience of daycare - the first few months

When your child starts daycare for the first time, be prepared for them to start getting sick!  It'll either happen now, or later when they start school for the first time (as happened with my daughter) while they are still in the process of building up their defenses.

Alexander started at daycare on a Monday for his three-day adaptation period, on Thursday he was there by himself and by Friday he had caught his first cold with a temperature, snotty nose and cough.

He has since had quite a few more colds, an ear infection and most recently a virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting and conjunctivitis.  Emma caught this one too, so they've both been taking the medicine.

He has basically been getting sick every two to four weeks, but luckily nothing very serious. Mostly coughs and colds.  The flu jab is obligatory so he has escaped influenza season unscathed so far.  Emma's school had an epidemic and had to close for two days to be disinfected.

That is the worst part of starting daycare, I suppose, but it is inevitable and will happen whether your child is in free daycare or the most expensive and prestigious childcare centre.  We just have to deal with it until our children's immune systems are more developed.

Apart from that, we have had a good experience with daycare.  The people there are friendly, the director is approachable, the health and safety controls are very rigorous and the staff are caring and affectionate towards the children.  Alexander is always handed over at pick up time with a clean face and nappy.  They report on how well he ate that day (he almost always eats very well there!), whether he had a nap and any other incident that has happened during the day.

Not all daycare centres are the same and some may be less stringent than others.  If you ever notice anything you are not happy with then you have every right to report it and complain - in fact, you should.

Anyway, I hope this post has been useful - or at least interesting!  If you are in Mexico and considering using the free daycare system, you can get in touch with me if you have any doubts about anything. I'll be happy to help if I can!

You can leave a comment on this post or send me an email to

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How To Apply For Free Daycare In Mexico

More useful posts:

On having a baby in Mexico - My Mexican Pregnancy - Birth Story

Getting a British Passport for your Baby - How to Apply for your Child's First UK Passport From Abroad

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


  1. A very thourough guide, and so great to see free is an option #KCACOLS

  2. How wonderful that you get this! As you say, daycare in the UK can be so costly that it prices mums out of the workplace #KCACOLS

  3. Oh wow well this would be great for when we take adventures. Thank you for linking up with us for #kcacols and we hope to see you next time

  4. Childcare here is so expensive. I literally pay £55 per day : / Such a great article though for parents in mexico - and nice that free is available. #KCACOLS

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